There are so many songs. So many songs in this world. And every day, thousands more are released. Not just written, but pressed up and put out into the world. It’s bewildering. It never stops. People spend countless amounts of dollars to record their music and then turn around and pay just as much to press it up. If you want to hire promoters to get it heard, then triple it. So much money to be one in a million. For nearly every single one of those millions, it never even gets heard beyond maybe a couple hundred people, most of those friends and family.
Did I ever tell you that I was in a band? For six years, I was in a basement with my best friends pounding away. It was halfway through that run that I got my first gig in radio. A year later, I made my way to music director and that’s when I saw the piles. Over on a separate desk, there were at least 7 stacks, 15 CDs high, of music. All of it had come in within the past two weeks. That’s around the time I must have lost my desire to create and followed the path of discovery. How was I to compete with all of these others? Wouldn’t it just be easier to find the gems and revel in passing them along? Done right, it’s just as rewarding as writing.
That probably sounds like a copout, right? “Those who can’t do, teach.” There is plenty of truth in that sentence and if that’s the hole I’m thrown into, I wear it with pride these days. Besides, I’ve been infinitely more successful as a curator than a creator. But I don’t mean for it to sound defeating. One side has to exist for the other. I need bands to write if I’m to accomplish my passion. Of course, now I sound parasitic.
It’s not a new condition. Eric Clapton talks about it in his biography, saying that there has always been a ton of bands, and 95% of the music published was forgettable at best. Though back then, it took quite a bit more work to get your music recorded. You had to have already made a name for yourself, at least in your area, to garner going into the studio. Nowadays it’s so easy to record your music, whether in your basement or in your bedroom. Imagine the floodgates.
Then there is the issue of copycats, also an age-old issue. One band gets famous and we’re all suddenly inundated with countless bands of the same ilk. I can’t so much blame the bands for this. They heard a song, got super inspired, ran to their instrument and gave us the passion that came out. All in all, we’ve had some great classics from what would have been considered copy-cats at the time. No, the real problem here is with the labels who really love to capitalize on a sound. I’m not saying anything new, and maybe even in the wrong for bringing it up, if you consider that they wouldn’t be able to push a sound so hard if people weren’t buying.
So, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the gems. The ones that cut through it all, sometimes against all odds. Sometimes because someone spent a lot of money to help it along. So again, say you’re that musician on the first level of what you hope to be a long career. Why do it? Why try to compete with the other hundred or so folks who had the same idea as you on the same day and will be putting out the same record?
Because what if? The old cliche “somebody’s gotta do it.” You may wipeout and go into obscurity. A never-been. You may gain a modest following then die only to be discovered years later (Mr. Nick Drake). You may write “Little Lion Man” and be credited for starting a new musical trend. Hell, maybe you’ll write “Layla,” which by the way, flopped when it was first released. The odds are against you. But, let me be completely selfish when I say that I need you write a great song. My addiction can only be supplied from the likes of you. Now get to it, but don’t get all pissy if at first I assume it’s going to be like all the rest. Prove me wrong.
Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Weekly Feed.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.